You’re nearing the end of your run. It’s been a challenging but fun workout and you’re ready to call it a day. As you roll into your final mile your mind may start to wonder ‘what should I do after the run?’. In this article, we’ll look at the 5 things you should do after your run. Enjoy.
Before you finish, make sure you cool-down.
We’re all guilty of forgetting to do a cool-down period at times. The cool-down period is meant to gradually bring back your body to a calm state rather than just stopping abruptly.
When you cool-down after a run your heart rate and blood pressure will drop whilst your veins start to constrict. Cooling down helps you cease running smoothly rather than just stopping.
To cool down get gradually slower during your last mile. Drop the pace every 10 seconds until you’re at a leisurely pace. As you get to a very light jog which almost feels like walking you should be at the end of your last half mile and ready to stop running. Cool-down complete. You’ve finished your run. You’re now ready to do the five important things below.
Immediately after you finish running have a glass or two of room temperature water. You lose lots of fluid whilst running through sweat, respiration and your body working harder than usual to supply fuel to the muscles. Before you leave for your run pore yourself a big glass of water so it’s easy for you to grab and guzzle the water as soon as you come through the front door.
It’s also ideal to replace the lost electrolytes(minerals) lost through an exercise like sodium, potassium, calcium bicarbonate, magnesium etc. These electrolytes keep the cells, tissues and fluids active and in good operational shape.
You can effectively and efficiently replace lost electrolytes through salt tablets, energy gels, sports drinks and chews. My motto for post-race hydration is ‘water for hydration, salt tablets for electrolytes.’
You don’t have to take salt pills; maybe you prefer something else, like sports drinks. Whatever your situation make sure you hydrate after each run and quickly replace lost electrolytes. This step should be your immediate priority after you formally end your workout.
Stretching regularly allows you to enhance and maintain your flexibility, reduce muscle tension and elongate constricted muscles. Stretching immediately after your run is preferred to beforehand because your muscles are still warm.
The NHS has a great page on the stretches you can do after a run. They recommend hip flexor stretches, thigh stretches, hamstring stretches and calf stretches, to name a few. Check out their page on post-run stretching, complete with useful pictures, here.
3. Fuel Up
After you’re hydrated and stretched out it’s time to re-fuel. Your body needs nutrients to repair from the strenuous effort required to run. As a rule of thumb protein, healthy fats and some carbohydrates should be consumed quickly after the run.
Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables, chocolate milk, whey protein shake, eggs and bacon, nuts and cottage cheese and fruit, all make for healthy post-run options.
It’s understandable that it may be hard to always eat healthily immediately after a run because you might be travelling or perhaps don’t have access to the healthiest food for whatever reason. Regardless, make sure you consume some protein immediately after the run.
Protein is an essential element to every single cell; your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. Essential for repairing damaged muscles and tissues after a run. For quick and effective recovery focus on protein-rich foods with a side helping of healthy fats and carbohydrates. One of my favourite post-run snacks is mackerel, some salad, cashew nuts and bread.
Unless you’re not human and pant whilst running, you’re likely to be drenched in sweat. You probably won’t be smelling like roses so it’s probably time for a shower or bath. Take your pick. Water and soap will strip all of the sweat and dirt off of your skin so you’re all clean and fresh.
Not only is washing after you run hygienic, but it also refreshes and energises you. Cleaning has been proven to have mental health effects. You physically taking the action to clean yourself gives a sense of control whilst the act of washing itself is calming and soothing.
Though I’m already in a great mood after a run, I find having a shower helps me to feel relaxed and revitalised. After my post-run wash, I’m ready to take on the day. Plus there’s the added benefit of smelling like lemonade, Lynx Africa or chocolate, depending on what shower gel I have in at the time! Make sure you wash after each and every run.
After your run it’s time to reflect. How was the run? Was it fun, productive and challenging or filled with problems? Whatever the case, make sure you reflect on your run so you internalise the experience.
If the run went well you’ll feel a sense of achievement as you’re progressing towards your goals. If the run didn’t go quite as well you’ll be able to learn lessons and transform the experience into learning so you can improve for the next run.
How exactly should you reflect on your run? Personally, I use the classic pen and paper option. I open my running journal, note the date and time, how far I’ve run, what the weather was like and give a score out of 5 of how I felt during the run. 5 for great and 1 for dismal. 3 for suitability challenged.
I then proceed to write about what went well and what the challenges were. I consider how I can apply learning from positives to future runs whilst working out where the problems stemmed from so they can be avoided in future.
I find writing everything out long-hand makes me process the information more and properly internalise it. You might be totally different and prefer another medium for reflection.
Tablets, whiteboards, a digital notepad, talking to someone or just thinking are all perfectly acceptable ways of reflecting on running performance. It doesn’t matter how you reflect; the important thing is that you make time for reflection. Without reflection it’s likely you won’t improve because you don’t know where you’re going wrong.
Reflection takes a couple of minutes and can have a drastic effect on re-adjusting the setting of the sail to refine your running. Maybe careful reflection has allowed you to come to the conclusion that your diet is holding you back from running faster times. Perhaps you’ve worked out the distances you’re running are too ambitious.
Whatever the case, there’s always a way to improve and the best way of working these out are by undertaking a reflection process after each run. Make sure you reflect and become the best runner you can possibly be.
There you have it. Five things you should do after every run. As always, wishing you and your running the very best; good luck!